?Chia seeds gave me new lease of life
SEE ALSO :Farmers compete with monkeys for foodGatimu was previously a pyrethrum farmer but turned to potato farming following the collapse of the industry. Exploitation and bad market conditions in the potato sub-sector forced him to quit and opt for chia farming. “I can’t compare the returns I used to get from other crops to what I earn from chia seeds. So far so good,” says the farmer. About the crop Chia crop which has its origin in Mexico is grown for its seeds and is slowly gaining popularity among farmers in Kuresoi after discovering a lucrative market. The seeds are tiny and multi-coloured with a wide spectrum of uses either as seeds or after grounding into powder.
SEE ALSO :County to build underwater museumFarmers pinpoint the crop’s readiness for harvesting by picking dry husks and threshing them using hands to release the tiny seeds. Selective harvesting can be done to avoid losing the already dry seeds which may drop on the ground if left for long. Mr Gatimu says the cost of production is manageable since the crop is hardy and resistant to most pests and diseases. “There is minimal application of chemicals during the period reducing the cost of production. I don’t know of any disease that attacks chia. It is only birds which become a problem if it overstays on the farms,” he says. Farmers have been using traditional methods to thresh the husks. This leads to post-harvest losses and is cumbersome and time consuming.
SEE ALSO :Leaders ask Uhuru to sack KiunjuriGatimu has modified a machine used in threshing maize which can now thresh and separate seeds from the chaff. “Traditional techniques such as pounding the husks on a flat surface was not effective. Some seeds would be left in the husks and was also more labour intensive. This has been minimised through the modified machine,” said Gatimu. During the five years, Gatimu has been in Chia farming, he has been harvesting an average of 400 killos in a good harvest per acre. Apart from selling the produce to the local market, he has multiplied the seeds and has a five-acre plantation of Chia. The returns have enabled him add value to the seeds by venturing into packaging of the seeds into smaller quantities. “Farm gate prices are usually Sh500 due to middlemen. If a farmer sells all the produce on the farm he will be able to fetch at least Sh200,000 in a single harvest. A 250 grams of the packed seeds fetches Sh600,” says Gatimu. His success has drawn more farmers into chia farming where they have formed a cooperative through which they are targeting to produce the seeds in large scale for export. “We have formed a sacco that has 100 members, farmers who have committed themselves to produce chia,” says Gatimu. Chia seeds can be used by soaking them in warm water to dissolve their oil forming a jelly which can be drank directly or on salads, drinks, yogurt, oatmeal, bread and pan frying. [email protected]